Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Stop and Smell the Roses

This past Saturday, Steve and I "worked" at The Friends of Vintage Roses booth at Sebastopol's "Apple Blossom Festival. There, we encouraged people passing by our booth to come in and "stop and smell the roses." 
In our little corner of the festival they could experience a wide range of heady, intense perfumes, the likes of which you seldom see in a modern rose garden, roses whose fragrance ranged from the traditional tea rose, to spice, to one rose that smells for all the world like grapefruit.

One of the main goals of the day was to entice people who love roses to join us as volunteers on our "Dirt Days", the twice monthly work days when dedicated volunteers get together to nurture, feed, weed, and tend one of the most important and extensive collections of old garden roses in the world. Our other focus was simply to re-introduce people to these wonderful roses, to share our enthusiasm for growing them, and to inspire others to do the same.
People looked at us quizzically, sometimes skeptically, certain we were "selling something".  We weren't. Well, not really.  Mostly, we were introducing people to the collection of old garden roses by letting them experience the fragrance of over fifty of the many thousands of different heirloom roses maintained by The Friends. Once we were enable to get them to come into our booth, we enjoyed their reaction.  The fragrance of the beautiful roses seemed to visibly lift spirits, infuse energy, and spark reminiscing of the gardens of their youth.  
Some of our volunteers had taken the time to create fact filled posters about the collection and the history of old garden roses.  We had copies of our newsletter to share, and during the time that I was there, several enthusiastic visitors voiced the intention of joining us for Dirt Days.  I sincerely hope they do.  The opportunity to work with such historically important specimens and alongside some of the most experienced and knowledgeable rosarians in the world is a rare gift in and of itself.  
I tended to be rather brash at times as I stood at the entrance to the booth and called like a carnival barker, urging people passing by to "come and smell the roses."  One man, a stoutly built, muscular gent sporting more ink on his body than I have in my art studio at first rebuffed my invitation.  
Undaunted, I stood in front of him with my walker and oxygen tank and told him that anyone who had that many tattoos of roses on his body simply had to stop and smell the roses.  
Amazingly, he followed me into our booth and then, as he sniffed every single one of the display roses, he told me that many of his tattoos were in honor of his grandmother who had raised him.  He told me, "She had roses in her yard that smelled just like this!"  He got a little choked up and I confess, I shed a tear or two watching this biker type with a studded dog collar wrist band gingerly lifting the bud vases to smell the roses.
Another of my favorite visitors to the booth were two young boys who were perhaps middle school aged.  They came together and told us somewhat shyly that they heard that "it smelled really good" in our booth.  
They lingered over many of the roses, fascinated by the variety of fragrances and asking thoughtful questions about the roses.   One of the boys commented that some of the roses smelled like soap and he asked how the rose fragrance got into the soap. 
I explained about French milled soaps scented by actual rose petals and one of the other volunteers explained how the rose petals were crushed to release the essential oils and then the oils were put into the soap.

Our tour of duty was a short three hours but I totally enjoyed myself and it was over all too soon. Even those visitors who were less enthusiastic about stopping in all left with a smile. How can anyone be unhappy around such beautiful flowers?
If you missed this event, there is another opportunity coming up in May.  The Friends will be providing a generous sampling of blooms for a similar display sponsored by the Heritage Rose Society at A Celebration of Old Garden Roses  which will be held May 15th from 11:00 AM to 3:30 PM at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito, CA 94530. 

And if you'd like to join us for "Dirt Days", you can find information about volunteer opportunities and membership The Friends on our website.

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